Viva l’Afrique! – Matthew Booth
Zhdrastvyite fytbolni fanatu (Hello football fans)
I had asked a week ago if normality at the World Cup 2018 had resumed. Hah! Fat chance!
This has certainly not been the case as the Germans have found out, to their peril, that four years is an incredibly long time in football. It has been four years since Philip Lahm raised the World Cup aloft within the majestic Maracana. It has been one year since a second string German squad cantered to victory and won yet another inter-continental title at the Confederations Cup at the brand new Krestovsky Stadium in Saint Petersburg.
A local coach once remarked, “That football will kill you!” I‟ll add that it can be a slow one or a quick one. De Mannschaft capitulated over a ten day period of three group games. The Germans have felt the pain of the defending champions curse which has plagued European teams since 2002 when defending champions France failed to progress, Italy who were crowned in 2006 failed to exit their group here in South Africa and, unbelievably, Spain who won European titles either side of their victory at Soccer City in 2010 were dismal in Brazil and also failed to clear the group stage hurdle.
Joachim Low, who had recently extended his contract with the German FA to 2022 and whose future is now in doubt, commented that, “All of German football has lost not just a match, but everything we have built in the last few years.” Over the next days and weeks expect the „German Inquisition‟ to take place similarly to the Spanish one four years ago (and in 1478). One thing is for sure, though, is that Sane, Gotze and Schurrle will publicly show support for their teammates but privately be smiling at the catastrophe. I‟m not sure how much Sane would have changed the outcome because he is the type of player who loves running at opponents and getting in behind the defence to cause panic with his pace and energy but certainly the guile, finesse and more importantly the patience of Gotze and Schurrle was missed in what was a blunted and sterile attack which came up against three teams who dropped very deep for a large majority of the game in an attempt to catch the Germans on the counter.
The failure of the five African teams to progress has left one heart-sore, angry and confused. Each nation I am sure has its unique issues and problems but bear
in mind the „developing‟ worlds 5:50:500 conundrum which refers to the „5‟ as the $5 billion that is generated for the „developing‟ world by NGO‟s annually, „50‟ represents the $50 billion in Official Development Aid from „developed‟ states while the „500‟ represents the $500 billion that is transferred from „developing‟ and „less developed‟ nations back to the very ones who dish out the „hand-outs‟. A large part of this scenario involves Africa and the transfer includes a loss of cash, minerals, an unequal balance in trade, the „brain-drain‟ which entails the loss of our educated…and our best athletic potential follow suit.
In 2010 a cheeky French journalist asked me how it felt to be the only „white‟ player in the Bafana squad at one of our many media conferences, to which I laughed incredulously and asked him if he would dare ask Hugo Lloris the same question and reminded him of the French teams demographic.
The sooner African governments and its football associations take cognisance of this tragedy, the better.
On a positive note I must commend the teams who had already been eliminated (or close to being) come the last group game but who nevertheless showed enormous spirit and pride. Many of those games involving Peru, Morocco, Costa Rica, Saudi Arabia, South Korea and Poland gave the tournament many a surprising twist and proved that there is no such thing as a „dead-rubber‟ at a World Cup when there is national pride and possible lucrative contracts at stake.